United just made it more difficult to claim a travel voucher for certain flights
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Like many carriers around the world, United Airlines is currently offering customers extra flexibility when booking flights for future travel. As it’s been doing since March, United will waive all change fees for flights booked through the end of this month, for all future travel dates. While that sounds great on the surface, you’ll lose any residual value if you move to a lower-cost flight, as I explain in this earlier post.
Fortunately, the airline has been offering a workaround, which has given me (and likely many others) the confidence to book future travel. To avoid losing value when moving to a cheaper flight, customers have been able to request that the full value of the original flight be applied to an Electronic Travel Certificate (ETC). For many itineraries, it was even possible to make the request online.
Sadly, that’s no longer the case. As of this month, United has removed the option to cash out to an ETC from its website. Fortunately, it’s still possible to request an ETC by speaking with a reservations agent at 1-800-864-8331. The agent will likely offer to keep the remaining value within your original ticket, but if you explain that you’d prefer an ETC, the airline has confirmed that’s still an option.
Note that there are a few advantages to keeping the value of your ticket within the reservation, rather than cashing out to an ETC. First, Future Flight Credits (FFCs), as they’re referred to internally, can be used to book partner flights — if you can book a flight on United.com, you can use an FFC to cover it. Second, if you originally booked your ticket through a travel agency, your agent can retain control of that same itinerary — ETCs must be redeemed directly with United. FFCs are also available to reuse immediately, while ETCs could take weeks to issue.
All that said, in most cases, I’d prefer to receive an ETC, unless rebooking for travel in the near future, on a flight that’s equally or more expensive than what I’d previously booked.
While you are limited to travel operated by United and United Express, ETCs are valid for 24 months from the date they’re issued, while most FFCs must be used for travel within 12 months of the original ticket issue date; FFCs for tickets originally issued between May 1, 2019 and March 31, 2020 are valid for 24 months. ETCs can also be combined to book a more expensive ticket, and if you can’t travel yourself, you can book a flight for someone else.
Featured photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,650
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
- Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
- With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
- Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
- Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.